SURPRISE, Ariz. — It took just over two weeks of Cactus League games for the Giants’ first rotation worry to crop up.
They built a fairly high-ceiling crop of starters who virtually all had injury concerns, which will make the organization’s depth vital. It’s possible that depth will kick in immediately.
Alex Wood has a stiff back and went to see a specialist Monday. While Gabe Kapler did not want to speculate without a diagnosis, the manager acknowledged he wouldn’t expect to see Wood in a game “in the next week or so.”
There are two weeks left of spring training games before the real thing starts up April 1. The 30-year-old Wood, who missed much of 2019 with a back ailment, has thrown three innings in the Cactus League. Even if his back recovers, he won’t be in position to throw 90 pitches the first week of the season.
The Giants have lined up Johnny Cueto for the season opener April 1 (although not officially), followed by Kevin Gausman and then likely Anthony DeSclafani. Aaron Sanchez threw three sim innings Sunday, and Logan Webb has been the most impressive pitcher in camp. The latter two are in “great position” to break camp in the Giants’ rotation, Kapler said Monday.
Sanchez, who didn’t throw a pitch last season after 2019 shoulder surgery, looked encouraging Sunday, when his fastball was 92-94 mph. He’s expected to pitch in a game possibly Friday. The 24-year-old Webb has been a more confident pitcher than he was last year and has been especially comfortable with Buster Posey. His changeup has been a breakout pitch that he’s using more often, and the righty has thrown six scoreless, 10-strikeout innings this spring.
“I think we have rotation options and we also have some off days early on,” Kapler said over Zoom, “and there’s lots of ways to be creative at this point.”
The Giants play three in Seattle then have an off day before three in San Diego, followed by another off day. If they wanted, they could operate with a four-man rotation and keep their starters on normal rest to start the season. There’s also a chance that for a pitcher like Sanchez, who could still be building up, they can use a piggyback option.
One camp competition has been for a potential sixth starter/swingman/long man out of the pen, Scott Kazmir, Nick Tropeano and Shun Yamaguchi as the most likely options. Any one could supplement a starter not yet fully built up.
The 37-year-old Kazmir, one of the best stories in camp, has pitched one Cactus League inning and is expected to pitch Tuesday against the Rangers at Scottsdale Stadium. Tropeano, who pitches quickly, has shown good offspeed stuff thus far (six innings, one run, six strikeouts) while Yamaguchi (four innings, one run, four strikeouts) is playing up a splitter the Giants want him to throw more often.
Both Tropeano and Yamaguchi had “nice outings” in throwing two innings apiece Monday against the Royals.
“Tropeano in particular had a nice changeup working in his second inning of work,” Kapler said. “With Yamaguchi, we think his splitter is a really good weapon, and we want to see him use it more than he did today.”
After a 60-game season, there will be more pitchers used than ever. It’s possible the Giants’ juggling game already has started.